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Which Dogs Live Longest?
Man’s Best Friend
If you’re a dog lover like I am, your canine companion is an integral part of your life. It quickly becomes a real member of the family – much more than just an animal. A great dog really can be your best friend, and in some cases, it can be more like your child. When you form a close bond with a dog, you’ll be emotionally devastated when that dog’s life ends. I don’t think it matters if that happens at seven years or at eighteen years – the end result is the same: You’ll be heartbroken whenever it happens. That being said, there’s something to say about having more years to enjoy your beloved pet, of course. A dog with a longer lifespan means more fun, more companionship, more devotion, and more precious memories. But…should lifespan be the most important element when choosing a dog breed? First, let’s take a look at some of the dogs with the longest lives.
I had a Chihuahua when growing up. Her name was Lemon. Actually, she wasn’t a purebred. Her mom was a half Chihuahua and half fox terrier, while Lemon’s sire was a purebred Chihuahua. When I grew up and moved away, Lemon stayed behind with my mom and dad. She lived to be almost twenty years old. When she got to the point where she could no longer walk, eat, or control her bodily functions, Mom had her euthanized.
Twenty years might sound like a long time for a dog to live, but it’s really not that unusual for Chihuahuas. According to the AKC, the average lifespan for a Chihuahua ranges from fifteen to seventeen years, but some other sources list a longer lifespan for these tiny pooches. According to Guinness World Records, the number fifteen spot of oldest verified dogs goes to another Chihuahua, Megabyte, who lived for close the twenty-one years.
Top 10 Longest-Lived Dog Breeds:
Dog Breeds with Longest Lifespan – According to the AKC
You already know about the Chihuahua, but what about other dogs that live a long time? Again, according to Guinness, the oldest dog on record was Bluey, an Australian cattle dog that lived to the ripe old age of twenty-nine. Apparently, though, ol’ Bluey was an outlier. According to the AKC, the breed’s life expectancy is from twelve to sixteen years. Below are some more popular dog breeds and their life expectancies, according to the American Kennel Club.
Bichon Frise – 16-18 years
Havanese – 14-16 years
Pomeranian – 14-16 years
Boykin spaniel – 12-16 years
Dachshund – 12-16 years
Maltese – 13-15 years
poodle - According to the AKC, standard poodles, miniature poodles, and toy poodles can all be expected to live to their teens.
Pug – 13-15 years
Pembroke Welsh corgi – 13-15 years
Cardigan Welsh corgi – 12-15 years
West Highland white terrier – 12-15 years
Beagle – 12-15 years
Yorkshire terrier – 12-15 years
Boston terrier – 12-14 years
Coton de Tulear – 12-14 years
Manchester terrier - 12-14 years
Miniature schnauzer - 12-14 years
Pekingese – 12-14 years
Russell terrier – 12-14 years
Scottish terrier – 12-14 years
Shih Tzu – 12-14 years
Lhasa Apso - 11-14 years
Mixed Breeds, Mutts, and Designer Dogs
Of course, you can’t find information on mixed breeds, mutts, or designer dogs on the AKC website. If you know which breeds your dog’s DNA is composed of, however, it’ll probably be a safe bet to use the parent breeds’ average longevity to figure out your pooch’s probable lifespan. For example, the designer breed known as the “Shorkie” is probably long-lived, based on the average longevity of the parents, a Yorkshire terrier and a Shih Tzu. Sources I found claim that the cock-a-poo and the pom-chi have very long lives, too. Also, some mixed breeds and mutts made the “Top 19” list of Guinness’ oldest dogs, including a shepherd mix, a Lab mix, and a Schnoodle, along with a couple of outright mutts of unknown parentage.
Nature vs. Nurture
Obviously, a well-cared for dog has a much better chance of longer years, and there are often exceptions to the best research. The nutrition your dog gets, its veterinary checkups, its housing, and its exercise can all contribute to your dog’s quantity and quality of its years. On the other hand, you have to take the dog’s breeding into account, too. No matter how well I care for my Great Danes, they’ll never live as long as the average Bichon Frise or Havanese. It’s simply not in their DNA. Obviously, unexpected physical injuries can end the life of the healthiest dog, too. Get the most out of your pet's years by giving it the best care possible.
Quantity vs. Quality
When you’re shopping for a new furry companion, does lifespan play a big role in your final decision? I can easily see why it might for some people. For me, however, it doesn’t. I’ve owned and handled many different dog breeds over the years, ranging from the long-lived Chihuahua to the very short-lived Great Dane. In my opinion, it’s not about how many years you have to spend with your dog; it’s more about the quality of those years. In fact, my all-time favorite breed of dogs is the Great Dane. The average life expectancy of the Dane is just six to eight years, although some breeders have developed lines that live longer.
The best dog I ever knew was my Great Dane, Hamlet. We had to euthanize him when he was eight years old, due to bone cancer. Do I wish he could have lived longer? Of course, I do! Heck, I wish we could have died together, but that’s not how it works with canines. They’re not meant to share our entire lives, sadly. Believe me when I say that I couldn’t have loved Hamlet any more if he’d lived to be fifty. Losing him just about killed me, and had he lived longer, the devastation would probably have been even worse, if that’s possible. Suffice it to say that I'd rather have eight years with a Dane than twenty with any other dog breed.
Choosing the Best Dog
So, while thinking about lifespan when choosing a dog can be important, it shouldn’t be the only factor you focus on. Consider how the puppy or dog is going to fit in with your lifestyle. If you have children, choose a breed that’s patient, gentle, and forgiving. Even though Chihuahuas are extremely long-lived, a diminutive, high-strung breed isn’t the best fit for small children. Their rough-housing could unintentionally injure a toy breed.
An overall assessment of a new potential pet is much more important than just lifespan alone. Other than temperament and lifespan, you should consider activity level, grooming requirements, intelligence/trainability, exercise needs, shedding, and general health problems. You’ll also need to take the dog’s purpose into account. What role is the dog intended to play? Do you want a running buddy, a hunting partner, a protector, a playmate for your kids, or a lap-warmer? Of course, most dog breeds can fill more than one role. Choose wisely and carefully. No matter how many years are involved, giving your heart to a canine can turn out to be an extremely rewarding experience for you, your family, and your dog.